German 3D printing company voxeljet AG, known for its industrial large-format 3D printers, has just launched a handful of specialty materials for its High Speed Sintering (HSS) 3D printers. The two new HSS 3D printing materials, Polypropylene (PP) and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) powders, are currently being evaluated by voxeljet clients in the sports and automotive industry.
Introducing both PP and TPU powders for HSS 3D printing has the potential to open up various new applications for the technology. Polypropylene, for instance, is one of the more versatile polymers out there and already has broad uses across end-use markets. Among the material’s beneficial properties are stress- and crack-resistance and good chemical and electrical resistance, even at high temperatures.
In the automotive sector, bumpers, cladding and exterior trim are all commonly manufactured using PP. Having the potential to 3D print parts from PP using HSS could, therefore, impact how the automotive industry adopts and uses additive manufacturing. Aside from the automotive sector, 3D printed PP also has potential applications in the electrical/electronics industry, as well as the industrial, consumer products and household goods segments.
“We are really excited about the speed we see in the qualification of new materials for our High Speed Sintering process,” commented Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO of voxeljet. “In less than nine months we were able to qualify various grades of Polyamide powders and are successfully printing several types of Thermoplastic Polyurethane.
“We are also working on some very customer specific materials including Polypropylene—which is one of the most widely used plastic materials in the world. Polypropylene features extremely interesting properties and addresses a broader set of applications. We are successfully printing PP on our smaller VX200 HSS systems and do expect a smooth transition to our larger and automated production system VJET XHSS, which we anticipate making commercially available at the end of 2019.”
TPU, for its part, is a thermoplastic elastomer highly sought for its flexible properties. Moreover, the material is known for being melt-processable and for being suitable for high precision and high resolution printing. Compared to other thermoplastic elastomers, TPU is also extremely adaptable, meaning that it can be used for various applications, including in the construction, automotive and even footwear markets.
This adaptability is largely due to to TPU being a material that boasts high resilience, good compression, as well as high resistance to impacts, tears, weather, abrasions and hydrocarbons. The primary applications for voxeljet’s new TPU powder for HSS are said to be sporting goods, industrial parts (broad in itself) and hydraulic seals and gaskets.
“We believe these technology and material combinations have the potential to change our industries in the long-term,” added Dr. Ederer. “voxeljet has always been committed to bring the best innovations to our customers at every level and we are doing so in a powerful way.”
As Dr. Ederer emphasized, voxeljet has successfully used its new PP material on its VX200 HSS systems but is still preparing the material for its large-format automated production system, VJET XHSS, expected for release in 2019.